Clear uncontaminated waters are pivotal in growing high-quality oysters, especially in the Pacific Northwest. The mollusks filter feed gallons of water a day and gain their subtle distinctive flavors from their environment.
Another factor in raising these delectable bi-valves is the water temperature. Did you know that the meat becomes tastier and firmer as the temperature drops? Who knew!
Oysters are best eaten during the cold months when the waters are crisp. Pacific Northwest seafood “guru” Jon Rowley says, “You can tell it’s oyster time when the skies turn oyster grey.”
Pacific Northwest oysters range in size from the tiny Olympia (great for oyster virgins) to the extra-large Pacific (good for frying). Smaller oysters, like my favorite, the Kumamoto, are perfect for slurping.
(Photo from Taylor Shellfish)
Oyster purists say there is never a better way to eat raw oysters than unadorned — MAYBE with a squirt of lemon. For the uninitiated oyster-slurper, this can be a bit scary. Don’t worry because I have some great ideas to ease you into this.
If you’re brand new to enjoying oysters raw, I have a bevy of simple sauces that you can make that will not mask their delicious flavor. From my Fresh Cocktail Sauce to my Champagne Mignonette Ice, you will love raw oysters in no time.
Don’t fret if raw is not your thing. My Baked Oysters with Savory Mushroom Herb Crust recipe is just for you!
Whether you shuck’em at home or enjoy them cooked or raw at restaurants (such as one of my favorites, the Walrus & the Carpenter in Ballard) get your oysters while the skies are grey.
So get shuckin’ and enjoy! -Kathy
Fresh Cocktail Sauce
Set bowl of Cocktail sauce in the center of a platter of just shucked oysters. Guests can top their oysters with as little or as much as they like.
Makes 2 cups
2 cups ripe tomatoes cut in 1/4″ dice
2 Tbsps very finely minced celery
1 medium, very finely minced shallot (about 2 tablespoons)
1 Tbsp finely chopped fresh parsley
1/4 cup fresh lemon juice
1 Tbsp hot prepared horseraddish
1/2 tsp Worcestershire sauce
1/2 tsp Tabasco (or more if you like it spicy)
1/4 tsp black pepper
3/4 tsp salt
1 1/2 tsp sugar
1/8 tsp celery seed
Gently mix together all ingredients. Chill well before serving.
Recipe by Kathy Casey Food Studios®
Champagne Mignonette Ice
Makes about 2 cups ice, enough to top 5 to 6 dozen oysters
3/4 tsp black peppercorns
1 cup Champagne vinegar
1/3 cup water
1 1/2 tsp very finely minced lemon zest
2 Tbsps minced shallot
1/2 cup Brut Champagne
Prepare the mignonette ice the day before or up to 3 days in advance. Enclose the peppercorns between pieces of plastic wrap and crush well with a heavy pot or mallet (or use a mortar and pestle). In an 8-inch square freezer-proof glass casserole dish or stainless-steel bowl, combine the pepper with the remaining ice ingredients and stir. Cover with plastic wrap and place in the freezer. Every 30 minutes or so, remove from the freezer and stir the mixture with a fork. The mixture should start becoming slushy after about 1 1/2 to 2 hours. When the mixture is icy and completely raked into tiny ice crystals, you can stop the stirring process. Let the mixture freeze overnight, then break up the ice crystals with a fork right before serving.
Serve the ice in a small bowl; guests can spoon a small spoonful over the oysters.
Recipe from Kathy Casey’s Northwest Table, Chronicle Books
Baked Oysters with Savory Mushroom Herb Crust
Make sure to use a hearty-textured bread such as Italian or French style – to provide the desired crumb consistency; avoid soft, airy loaves.
Makes 2 dozen medium oysters on the half-shell
2 cups packed diced firm textured rustic bread
1 cup coarse chopped mushrooms
3 Tbsps cold butter, cut small pieces
1/4 tsp salt
1/4 – 1/2 tsp Tabasco sauce
1/4 cup coarsely chopped fresh parsley
1 tsp minced fresh thyme
1/4 cup (1 oz wt) high quality, shredded Parmesan cheese
2 tsp minced fresh basil
1 Tbsp fresh lemon juice
1/4 tsp fresh ground black pepper
2 dozen medium oysters (3 1/2″ long) in the shell
Place bread cubes and mushrooms in food processor. Add remaining ingredients, except oysters, and process 30 seconds, or until particles are well chopped and pea-like in texture. Set aside.
Preheat oven to 475 degrees F.
Shuck oysters, cutting muscle but leaving oyster in the deep shell. Cover each oyster loosely with 1 rounded tablespoon bread crumb-mushroom mixture, covering entire surface of the oyster.
Arrange oysters on baking sheet and place on middle shelf of oven. Bake 6 – 8 minutes till topping is golden. Time carefully — they can overcook and dry out quickly!
Recipe by Kathy Casey Food Studios®